‘Aylan Island’ underway! Egyptian billionaire negotiates with Greece, UN to purchase island for refugees
Naguib Sawiris is an Egyptian telecommunications billionaire worth about $3 billion. (AFP/File)
Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian telecommunications billionaire offering to buy a Mediterranean island to shelter migrants, has identified two Greek islands as potential locations.
Earlier this month, Sawiris, owner of Orascom, urged Greece or Italy to "sell me an island." According to a statement released Monday, Sawiris, worth about $3 billion, has "identified two privately owned Greek islands that constitute a good opportunity for the project."
"We have corresponded with their owners and expressed our interest to go into negotiation with them provided they can acquire the approval of the government of Greece," the statement reads. "We are seeking the government's consent to be willing to take care of the administrative process of permitting entrance of refugees to the island, which will fall under Greek jurisdiction."
A migrant crisis has escalated throughout this year as people flee conflict and poverty mainly from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Eritrea and Iraq.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency contacted Sawiris to discuss potential cooperation, a move welcomed by Sawiris "provided his idea does not get held back by any bureaucracy."
The island project is called Aylan Island, in commemoration of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned and washed up on a Turkish beach after failing to reach the Greek island of Kos. An image of Aylan's lifeless body generated worldwide attention.
"We have received tons of expressions of interest from people who are willing to donate to this project," the statement writes, adding that the best way to accept donations would be to establish a joint-stock company with a $100 million capital
"Establishing a legal entity will allow us to accept donations in a legitimate way, as anyone who will donate will get shares in the company ... this way, any money put in will not be completely lost, as the asset [the island] will remain," the statement says.
By Andrew V. Pestano